By Bobeth Yates

MIAMI (CBSMiami) – For the second weekend in a row, Miami-Dade residents got together to protest the closure of Matheson Hammock Park’s west entrance.

“This is simple. Just don’t want these on watched people near my home,” said pro bono attorney Bruce Jacobs, who represents the friends of Matheson Hammock Park West.

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Jacobs says the effort to close the Old School House Road entrance to the park is being pushed by the Hammock Lake Homeowner’s Association.

“They came up with a plan that these nature trail that’s about a quarter of a mile a little longer that is a protected rock nature trail. The plan is to build a multi-million boardwalk right through the nature trail. As if that is somehow helpful to the community and really all it does is give them an excuse to shut down the north gate on Old School House Road.”

Jacobs points to emails between then county commissioner Xavier Suarez and the president of the HOA as proof.

“This all started because there’s a Miami-Dade circuit court judge, a very powerful person in town who consulted with a county commissioner and said I want you to meet with my homeowners’ association and what they got the commissioner to do is to shut down this park,” said Jacobs as he described the contents of the email chain.

But the homeowner association denies the claim saying they had nothing to do with the change. In a previous interview with Bill Ogden, the HOA president said while they did reach out to the commissioner for help with concerns with the park that surrounds their community, those emails never resulted in any assistance.

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Ogden added that from the mid-80s to 2009 the Old School Road Entrance was only used for service vehicles and not open to the public.

In 2009 the entrance was expanded to those with disabilities but because it was never policed anyone could again access it. He adds prior to the gate being closed last year for COVID, about 4,000 cars a month used the west entrance that goes through their small residential neighborhood.

Now, the newly elected commissioner Raquel Regalado, who over that district is now trying to find a balance between the two sides

“Miami-Dade county doesn’t make decisions based on who lives next to the property. We’re making this decision based on the covenant and our obligation to protect, preserve, and restore environmentally fragile properties,” added Commissioner Regalado.

Regalado says she has proposed legislation that will address the concerns by giving the Department of Environmental Resource Management, not commissioners, not neighbors, dog owners, or the Parks Department has the final say on what happens next.

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“We’re taking into account all the different parties the people who are interested in the environmental piece, people who are interested in the dog park piece, the leash, and no leash, as well as the educational component,” said Regalado. “These are environmentally protected lands and that’s our number one priority, honoring that restoring that and preserving that.”